Custom Imports and Updates

Time Matters has a very advanced and sophisticated import system.  There are many reasons one would wish to import data into Time Matters.  The most common is for new users of Time Matters who are converting from other systems.  If they are using Outlook, you can use “synchronization”.  For other practice management system or contact management systems there are pre-set import routines.  But there are other circumstances where you will need to use the Custom Import.  It is for those circumstances that I offer a few tips or best practices.

Circumstances where Custom Import is Required

(1) Your data source is Outlook, but you have used custom fields.
(2) Your have worked with Seibel CRM On Demand, and only have CSV (Comma Separated Value) Files.
(3) The built-in import doesn’t support the record type you want to bring in, such as “Notes”
(4) You are doing a “mass” export and cleanup and reimport
(5) You are enabling User Defined Records from a custom database or spreadsheet.

We use Excel to cleanup the data before import and prepare
(1) Always “index” your imports with some unique record ID.  In Excel, you can add an ID column, with data such as ADV001, ADV002.  By dragging the corner of the cell, Excel will complete the series.
(2) Use concatenation (e.g. =CONCATENATE(A2,” “,B2,” “,C2) ) to merge data from multiple columns.
(3) Use Cell Formatting on Dates and Numbers to get the “data” to look the way you want, and the “copy/paste” into a new column as text
(4) Replace the column heads with the Time Matters Core Field Name, or Field Label for the record type you will be importing.
(5) Mark as “DNC” for Do Not Code, any columns of data which you don’t wish to import.
(6) Search and remove all QUOTES “” in any of the cells, Except for Cells where there are Formulas
(7) When done, save worksheet to CSV.

When you are doing the import:
(1) Create a sample data set with only 2 or 3 records
(2) Save the Import Template and test it until it works perfectly.
(3) Then rerun the template, but change the data source to the full set
(4) Be sure to include the RecordID as a field you are importing, and set it as the matching field.  This is a critical step to avoiding the creation of duplicate records.

Flat World … Big Cloud

Last week, I received a call from London.  An American lawyer, based in London, with clientele in Florida was setting up a firm “in the cloud”.  He was planning to use a Salesforce.com application for lawyers called AdvologixPM and an accounting service called Xero.com.  After some research, we discovered there was integration between Force.com and Xero, an accounting software package offered as a SaaS model (monthly fee) and hosted out of New Zealand.  After speaking to an accountant in Auckland, New Zealand, we were able to advise the client.  What makes it interesting in the “multinational” nature of this engagement made possible by “The Cloud” and requiring “no software installation”, but rather the engagement of “services.”

Here was a lawyer in London, contacting a consultant in New York, to assemble a practice management suite with “case data” hosted in the U.S. on Salesforce.com and “accounting data” hosting in New Zealand, to service clients in Florida and England.

Go figure this brave new world.

Wordle Revisited

Apparently my experiment with Wordle did not change the results for HotDocs, XpressDocs, GhostFill, Time Matters, Amicus Attorney, and AdvologixPM. Perhaps, if I reorder the phrases HotDocs, XpressDocs, GhostFill, Time Matters, Amicus Attorney, and AdvologixPM so that they are alphabetical:  AdvologixPM, Amicus Attorney, DealBuilder, GhostFill, HotDocs, HoudiniESQ, Time Matters, XpressDocs.  Maybe if they are reverse alphabetical:  XpressDocs, Time Matters, HoudiniESQ, HotDocs, GhostFill, DealBuilder, Amicus Attorney, AdvologixPM, it will push me over. Alternatively, I can try them by word length:  Amicus Attorney, Time Matters, AdvologixPM, HoudiniESQ, GhostFill and HotDocs.

So … back to Wordle for the test.

Will let you know. I suspect the reason has to do with the fact that Wordle uses Google Analytics and it may be that the feed has not yet registered in Google.  Not sure if that is true, but will check back later.  Must return to real work.

The Open Source Manual

We are going to try an experiment.  We are going to use Wiki technology – MediaWiki (the same used by Wikipedia) to create an open-source manual for Time Matters.  We will start out the core of it with our current knowledge of Time Matters.  We will require contributors to “register” in order to make contributions and revisions to the manual.  The hope is that this Wiki will fill the void between what is in the “help text” and what constitute “best practices”.

We will be making a general announcement later in the month when the Wiki is ready.  All contributions will be subject to a “Creative Commons” license.  That means that Basha Systems LLC as host will have license to use and republish any contributions submitted to the Wiki.  However, you will also be free to “republish” content and link to it, so long as that content contents source attribution and a hyperlink back to the website source for the article.

The more people contribute, the better the resource will become.  This Wiki is designed to “refine” the knowledge out there as to best practices and specific tips, using group-sourcing to improve on the content.

Wordle and Cloud Maps

I recently WORDLED this blog.  It turned out the hot word was SAAS.  Even though our predominant focus is document assembly and workflow, those words did not show up.  HotDocs, XpressDocs, GhostFill, Time Matters, Amicus Attorney, and AdvologixPM did NOT show up. There was some mention of ContractExpress and DealBuilder.  This could be because Wordle focuses on the RSS feed which is the Summary para of the blog entry, and not the body.  It also could reflect that HotDocs, XpressDocs, GhostFill, Time Matters, Amicus Attorney, and AdvologixPM don’t have prominent mention in the summary. And so if I use the words: HotDocs, XpressDocs, GhostFill, Time Matters, Amicus Attorney, and AdvologixPM more often in my summaries, then it is likely that HotDocs, XpressDocs, GhostFill, Time Matters, Amicus Attorney, and AdvologixPM may show up more often.  And so I am testing Wordle to see how responsive it is for these words: HotDocs, XpressDocs, GhostFill, Time Matters, Amicus Attorney, and AdvologixPM.

My apologies for the redundancy, but I am checking an experiment.  This is also an advise to those using social media to pay special attention to Summary/Abstracts if they are targeting key words.

And yes, there is method to my madness.

Database Connection – Vista64 and Windows7

Have you ever tried to add an Access database as a new “datasource” in Vista64 and Windows7? In most cases, you will go WINDOWS START -> Control Panel -> Administrative Tools -> Data Sources (ODBC).  When you click ADD, you will get SQL Native Client and SQL Server.  There will be NO opportunity to add Access or any of the OLDER data types.  These 32-bit datatypes are effectively banished from the system.  Quelle disaster!!!  Well we have a solution, one that is REAL EASY

Read more

The Place to Go for News on Document Assembly and Case Management

It’s live!!!! The new Basha Systems legal technology news site. Come for a visit.  For TOO long, there was no source for news on developments in practice management and document assembly.  And yet, several vendors has started getting savvy about social marketing.  For example, Exari and ContractExpress have launched blogs and twitter feeds of news and development.  And so, rather than hunting everywhere for developments, I created a page for myself to track these latest “feeds” and then set it up for you to enjoy.  Come take a look; bookmark the site, and come back regularly.  If there are OTHER feeds you want to see, please suggest it.  Best of all, check out the new technology.  This is the first consultant website that you can “PERSONALIZE”. Yeah, you can reorder the feeds, change the priorities, and move it around to suit YOUR technology needs.

I am very excited about the site.  It saves me from having to hunt around for news.  At the moment, it is limited to “public feeds”.  There are actually several vendors that have feeds that require a LOGIN to get access to their blog.  I can configure the website to access those feeds, but only with permission.  If you want me to add your business feed, and it is behind a login, please send me an email granting permission, along with an appropriate login to see it.

The more that people know about developments in different products, the more informed will be their decisions, and the more likely they will take the technology plunge.  That is my hope.  Enjoy.

Running HotDocs Player and HotDocs Developer (in different versions)

Face it: we don’t always upgrade to the latest version of a program. There is the cost of the upgrade, and the cost of “conversion”.  The cost of conversion on HotDocs upgrades has been over-rated.  With HotDocs 2009, you can keep the CMP in the HotDocs 2006-2008 format, ensuring painless upgrades.  However, if you don’t upgrade, some issues can arise.  This is particularly true for those who purchase LexisNexis automated forms or other published form set such as Wealth Transfer Planning.  These programs typically come with a license to “HotDocs Player 2009”.  This is the SAME as HotDocs User (previously HotDocs Standard) with one exception.  It will ONLY run “published form sets” and to publish a form set you need a “publisher’s key” and a special license arrangement with HotDocs corporation.  This is a non-issue if you have HotDocs 2009 (or the latest version).  However, if you don’t you can find that your own firm-developed templates NO LONGER WORK.

The Cause of the Problem

When you install a published form set it check if you have the most current version of HotDocs Developer, Standard or User.  If your machine does, the templates are installed and everything works.  If you do NOT have the most current version, it find the HotDocs6 folder in your program files directory, and inserts a subfolder called PLAYER.  It installs HotDocs player in this subfolder.  When you launch a one of the Automated Forms libraries, Windows “associates” the .HDL (Library files) with HotDocs 2009 Player.  So, that the next time you launch a library .HDL (assuming you have shortcuts to each of your libraries), it launched HotDocs Player and your library.  However, HotDocs Player will not PLAY your templates, so they are locked and unusable. Conversely, if you launch HotDocs 2008 (or earlier), it will open the last library, which will be the Automated Forms, which will throw an error that says cannot run templates, wrong version of HotDocs.

The Solution

Upgrade to HotDocs 2009 is the easiest solution.  However, you can also take advantage of the “command line” options of HotDocs to effectively tell Windows which version of HotDocs to run with each library. This is done by creating a shortcut to each library and putting them on your desktop:
1.  Right-click on each library (.HDL) file, and choose: Send To -> Desktop (create shortcut)”
2.  Right-click on the Shortcut and Choose Properties
3.  Under Target, insert the following “before” the path and name of the library file
For FIRM created Templates (Windows XP or Vista/Windows7):
“C:Program FilesHotDocs 6HotDocs6.exe” /lf="path and file name”
or
“C:Program Files (x86)HotDocs 6HotDocs6.exe” /lf="path and file name”

For AUTOMATED Templates (Windows XP or Vista/Windows7):
“C:Program FilesHotDocs 6PlayerHotDocs6.exe” /lf="path and file name”
or
“C:Program Files (x86)HotDocs 6PlayerHotDocs6.exe” /lf="path and file name”

Website Redesign

Every other year I assess our firm’s web-presence and look at the state of technology.  My goal is to build a website that is informative, describes the products we support, and gives useful comparative and illustrative information about those products. Two years ago my interests were wide ranging, but the core of our business was HotDocs, GhostFill and Time Matters.  Since that time, our skill set and product offerings have expanded, as well as our staff.  We now have significant programming and database management capabilities by virtue of the inclusion of Steve Stockstill and Marc Wexler in our virtual offerings, and have engaged our partner Holly Humphreys in several billing engagements.

We have entered into the web-development business with a new offering coming out in the 4th quarter through our partner businesswebsitedesigners.com.au that addresses the needs of lawyers interested in both social media and document automation. We have diversified our offerings of practice management solutions to include AdvologixPM and Amicus Attorney Premium Edition.  We have built solutions with Exari document assembly and DealBuilder, now offered on a SaaS model as ContractExpress.  And we have partnered with NetDocuments to provide cloud-based document management.  And so, our website, as comprehensive as it is, is hopelessly out of date.

We plan to be dividing our website along product lines, with offerings describing in detail each product we support and our twist as to which of you they will best serve.  We will also be providing some feature comparisons between competing products to help you decide which features are important to you.  This will not happen overnight, but will be a work in progress.  Also, we will be offering this blog feed, alongside the feeds of vendors and opinion leaders in a new website (more on that at a later time).

So please, bookmark this website and comeback often, or enable your RSS reader.  There is more to come.

Credenza, Houdini, AdvologixPM, RocketMatter, Clio, TimeMatters 10 & Amicus 2010

Wow!!!!! The marketplace for practice management software has exploded this year.  They must have added something to the water that programmers drink (they do drink , don’t they?).

Well, yesterday, Gavel & Gown released Credenza (Click for more info).  Now you can have your Outlook and your case management; no synchronization, no exchange.  Rather, you now have FILES within Outlook.  A $9.95/month subscription is the cost.

Meanwhile, I am currently reviewing HoudiESQ. This system is a web-based practice management system designed by Frank Rivera (who architected Time Matters World Edition). It is offered on either a SAAS (Software as Service) or self-hosted basis. What is different is that it entirely redesigns and rethinks the interface for a practice management system.  Stay tuned for my review in Technolawyer later this month.

Not to be outdone, LexisNexis has released Time Matters 10 (on an all-SQL platform).  Apart from major improvements in stability and access speed, the system includes Desktop Extensions.  These widgets give you a window into Time Matters on your desktop and could change entirely the way you work with your practice management system.

Gavel & Gown, with the release of Amicus 2010 Premium Edition, has produced a solid, stable product.  While continuing its focus on “separate offices”, the Premium Edition, centralizes the data on a single SQL Server (full SQL Server 2008 Standard is included with the license) and added extensive customization in the form of custom pages and custom records.

On the SAAS front, RocketMatters, Clio and newcomer AdvologixPM are coming into their own.  Each have been progressively adding features to fill out the requirements of a robust practice management system.  Clio and RocketMatter have expanded their billing and trust accounting features. AdvologixPM, with its support for extensive customization, has released a new document automation module that lets you launch full document packages, populated with data from the Force.com platform.

So what is going on?  For several years nothing happened in Practice Management.  Many vendors “treaded water”.  Some vendors exited.  Few new players entered the market.  And existing products pretty much stayed the same. There was no excitement, no ferment.  Something is clearly happening.  And it may not be good for established vendors unless they respond to the new environment and try to generate buzz and excitement about their products.  The SAAS products are looking at a complete redesign of the way practice management is done (anywhere, anytime, any platform) that reflects the new business reality.  The SAAS products also are looking at entirely new interfaces and windows into your practice data.

How can the SAAS developers do it?  There are two answers.  First, the SAAS developers control the software and the hardware.  In a hosted environment, the developer can make instant improvements.  There is no need to wait for the “long-tail” of users to upgrade; no need to support multiple platforms, legacy software and legacy hardware.  The host is the platform.  And that makes the SAAS developers much more nimble.

The second reason, perhaps, is more significant.  And that is the pricing model.  SAAS is “cheap” on the start-up, and expensive in the long run.  It is very easy and cheap to get started with Credenza, RocketMatter, Clio and AdvologixPM.  Once you have signed on, you will keep paying so long as you use the platform.  That means that there will be ever-increasing revenue for the SAAS developer so long as it continues to innovate; with the more innovation leading to more sales, and further increases in revenue. This is a “win-win” situation.  The SAAS developer wins by the “monthly” vote by the end-user paying their fee.  The user wins by having that vote courted with constant innovation.  By contrast, the up-front software sale with nominal maintenance produces a “disincentive” to constant innovation; once you reach market saturation in your segment, the revenue actually decreases.

Despite the groans from the current users, LexisNexis has got it right with its new AMP or annual maintenance plan.  In doing so, they follow the example of PC Law and STI/Tabs.  The hope is that LexisNexis uses this annualized revenue and maintenance to “innovate and improve” the product steadily and attract new users, rather than simply extract the profits from its existing user base.  It is this transition to software as a service (whether on a desktop or in the cloud) that represents the future of practice management.